Through the historical development of the Refuge Gateway site for industrial purposes during the 1940s–1960s, river bottom and wetlands were filled to support a number of manufacturing operations. At the time of closure of the plant in 1990, the site was relatively flat, with a significant drop at a 90 degree angle to the Detroit River. The site master plan called for the restoration of a more natural shoreline at the Refuge Gateway. A coastal wetland and habitat restoration plan was then prepared in 2010 by a team of expert scientists, engineers, designers, and representatives from regulatory agencies, accounting for the site environmental constraints.
The project team, with concurrence from state and federal regulatory agency staff, agreed to limit excavation above the old river bottom and a layer of clay and topsoil were installed creating a cap over the contaminated material. The project team modified the design plans to construct a coastal wetland shelf along the entire Detroit River shoreline and riparian buffer habitat at the southeastern corner of the site.
In 2011, shoreline restoration began with the removal of fill from the land at the southeast corner of the property. To avoid exposing residual contamination and creating a direct hydrologic pathway to the Detroit River, and to comply with regulatory agency cleanup standards and shoreline restoration permits, the shoreline restoration design had to be modified consistent with an adaptive management philosophy. In an area that has lost an estimated 97% of historical coastal wetland habitat, this shoreline restoration project would represent a regional net gain of nearly three acres of this threatened habitat.
Click to enlarge image.